The House, Netflix, review: Roald Dahl meets Stephen King in eerie animated adventures

Wes Anderson’s 2009 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox invented the new genre of stop-motion animation starring cutesy animals weighed down with existential angst (a case can obviously be made for the melancholic Bagpuss getting there first). Fantastic Mr Fox also featured a cameo from Jarvis Cocker, in which the Pulp frontman parodied his public persona as the most morose man in pop. 

Anderson wasn’t involved in The House, Netflix’s new three-part series of short animated films. The script is by playwright Enda Walsh, who propelled Cillian Murphy towards stardom with Disco Pigs and worked with David Bowie on his baffling musical Lazarus. Nonetheless, the spirit of the animated Fantastic Mr Fox infuses this weird, sometimes unhinged anthology, which arrives bathed in the same thrift-shop sheen that is an Anderson hallmark. 

And it features Cocker, who pops up in the second of three short tales (directed by Swedish filmmaker Niki Lindroth von Bahr). The singer puts his gothic mumble to work voicing a depressed mouse/property developer trying to sell a mysterious dwelling infested with dancing cockroaches. The insects are disgusting. And yet everything else about The House feels as quaint and affected as craft beer served by a chap with sleeve tattoos and a springy moustache. 

Thank goodness for the other two stories, which are considerably less repulsive and can be enjoyed without a cushion strategically placed in front of the sensitive viewer’s face. All revolve around the recurring “character” of a strange house in the mist. In the first, directed by Belgian animators Emma De Swaef and Marc James Roels, a down-on-his-luck father (Matthew Goode) moves his family into a new property built by a mysterious patron. 

The benefactor is clearly up to no good. And poor Raymond and his wife Penelope (Claudie Blakley) are soon literally transformed by their hunger for middle-class respectably, leaving daughter Mabel (Mia Goth) to rescue her baby sister. The predictable plot is in part rescued by the unsettling animation, in which the characters are rendered out of a sort of squishy foam. They resemble half-finished rag dolls – an effect considerably more haunting than the linear script which plays out like Stephen King directing Location, Location, Location. 

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